…by Francois-Rene Rideau (2002)
Unless you visited my website recently and consequently see what I mean  you are probably befuddled by the title of my essay: “Government is the Rule of Black Magic, On Human Sacrifices and Other Modern Superstitions´´. You’re wondering: “is this guy some kind of looney? is he going to tell us that government is not our real Enemy, but only the visible manifestation of hidden forces of Evil that dominate our world through black magic?´´. Well, yes I’m a looney, and yes this will be more or less my conclusion. But my bet is that before you reach the end of this essay, you will also be the very same kind of looney, and you will agree with this conclusion. Actually, since you’re reading this page, you probably already agree with me and just don’t know it yet. To convince you, I will only have to cast a new light on this Evil the manifestations of which are all too familiar to you .
But first things first. If I am to tell you the intellectual trip that led me to this grim conclusion, I might as well start from my point of departure. The question that bugged me is a question that must bug most rationally inclined libertarians at one point or another. And most libertarian activists are probably the same kind of rational cerebral libertarian as I am (i.e. NT in the Myers-Briggs typology ). That question is: are there any rational justifications to the existence of government? What can we say of existing explanations that serve as official justifications? In other words: is government the answer to the problems it claims to solve?
Of course, the answer that we libertarians have reached is that no, there are no rational justifications for government , its official explanations are bogus, and not only does it not solve the problems it claims to solve, but it creates these problems to begin with. This answer even defines us as libertarians. But this answer is not enough. It is a mistake to close the debate there and think that we’ve solved the problem — just our knowing that government is wrong won’t in itself make government go away. We must ask: if these explanations are fake, then what is the real reason for people to believe in government? What is the rational explanation for these irrational explanations ? In other words: if government is the answer, then what was the question?
That’s how I’ll uncover the dark secret of government. Then, I’ll develop the theme of black magic: its principles; the principles of white magic, its opposite; how black magic manifests itself, etc. I will conclude briefly with the task that lies ahead for us.
|2 Government: The Official Justifications|
The most popular tentative justification of government in rational terms is Public Goods theory and its variants, whether presented from a utilitarian point of view (often with the help of its econometric toolbox), or from a moral point of view: some activity is of a special nature or has a special importance, and therefore must be managed by a central agency “in the interest of the public´´. Without analyzing the details for the moment, suffice it to say that all other justifications of government somehow boil down to a more particular or more general case of the Public Goods argument. The “public good´´ considered may be some form of service related to security (police, justice, army), infrastructure (transportation, telecommunications, education, health), “harmonization´´ in some matter (information, education, language, industry standards), certification (identity, land registry, verification of conformity to standards), etc.
Unhappily, many libertarians concede some “public goods´´ to the statists, but then they are on a slippery slope, for there is no reason to stop the public goods argument to any particular service. To paraphrase Emile Faguet: minarchists are libertarians who do not have the courage to accept the full consequences of their ideas; anarchists are uncompromising libertarians . Indeed, using arguments of the “public goods´´ type, government can intervene in just any domain — and once it does, it will make sure that the domain is so messed up that, by the same argument, it will have to extend its grasp over it until the domain is both completely under its control and completely messed up — and neighbouring domains in turn suffer. But of course, intervention is based on the premise that government intervention is useful, to begin with — and this is precisely the point that statists posit as a petition of principle; it is precisely the point that needs to be disputed.
The arguments for the collectivization of some service into a state-managed “public good´´ contains an intrinsic ad hoc fallacy: Why pick any particular form of collectivization?
Indeed, why collectivize or not collectivize, say, “toilet paper´´? Isn’t there but a more specific need to collectivize “green soft toilet paper in 5-inch-wide rolls sold under a brand the name of which ends with an S´´? (After all, some company may very well have a dangerous monopoly on these!) Or why isn’t there instead a need to collectivize production of all paper? Why collectivize at the scale of Great Britain? Why not collectivize at a smaller scale, say Westminster or the block next door? Or at a larger scale, say Northern Eurasia, or our quadrant of the Milky Way? And why collectivize it on a geographical scale at all? Why not collectivize for people whose name begin with an “R´´, or for people who wear black socks?
As for arbitrarily choosing the scale, we could as well argue that the considered services are of such a particular nature or importance for an individual that he shouldn’t be deprived from his own ability to choose without being coerced, as an independent individual, how these services should be provided to him. Or if we are to take the opposite view, why stop? If collectivization of the considered service is of such an importance that the necessity for everyone to obey the same orders is an absolute priority that justifies coercion and violence until everyone agrees, then we should stop all other activities, withhold all human rights and wage world war until there is a world government so that at last everyone will be under the same rule. And why stop there even? Before we have any respect for individual rights, it is also urgent to send space ships to conquer the universe and compel space aliens into accepting the same social laws as we have.
Collectivists implicitly accept that their argument is not universal: their claim verily supposes the existence of an important counter-effect that becomes preponderant and limits the applicability of their argument. What are these counter-effects, their relevance, their limits? Only by identifying and studying these counter-effects can the possible applicability of their argument be established. In other words, their claim contains its very own contradiction, which they dismiss by voluntary ignorance. Their call for governmental coercion is based on a one-sided view of government. This is the case of all statist justifications .
Here is a brief review of the justifications given by statists to argue for the necessity or utility of government. Other arguments for “public goods´´ can be found to be fallacies as well . See footnotes for details.
- The Externalities Theory of “public goods´´ states that some activities intrinsically imply externalities , and that government is a magic solution to managing these externalities, — whereas it is but a way to coercively concentrate externalities, from lots of small, manageable ones, into the huge and overwhelming externality of ensuring there is a “good´´ government, which turns out to be completely unmanageable .
- The Game Theory version of “public goods´´ similarly considers government as an external all-knowing benevolent God, that will help people choose the average best scenario in interactions modelled after simple mathematical “games´´, — whereas the government is actually made of people with their own self-interest, so that if we are to correctly use Game Theory, we must consider government officials as self-interested players among others; the only particular characteristic of political action is that government agents have the power of legal coercion, which in Game Theory translates into their being able to impose to their own benefit negative-sum games of their choice .
- With the Impossibility To Exclude and Impossibility to Divide theories, many economists define “public goods´´ as goods from which the exclusion of third parties is allegedly impossible, or the division of which into individual shares is impossible. They then introduce the notion that government is a magic solution to manage these goods and has a “natural monopoly´´ on those goods. This “natural monopoly´´ of course is nothing else than the allegedly impossible exclusion of people who will not fit government-established rules, and the allocation of shares of the allegedly “indivisible´´ common good according to the government-imposed criteria .
- The Catastrophe-Prevention version of “public good´´ agitates the straw man of a simultaneous failure of all suppliers of some service to justify government intervention in the market of said service. Now, the only way that there could be a catastrophic simultaneous failure of all suppliers of said service is that there be a single simultaneous management of all supplies by a de jure monopoly — which is precisely what government introduces .
- Collective will theories, whether the democratic version of “Will of the People´´, the nationalist version about “Identity of the Nation´´, or the socialist version about the “Good of Society´´, go on to suppose that individuals must be coerced into joining a particular utopia. The utopia is assumed to be good in theory, because people willingly adhere to it; yet at the same time, it is admitted in practice that people do not willingly adhere to said utopia, since they must be coerced into adhering to it .
- The Broken Window Fallacy supposes that there are some goods, “public goods´´, that government can create out of the blue by its own sacred power of coercion. Of course, when individuals not blessed by this sacred power dare to do the same destructive and freedom-infringing things as government does to “create´´ those goods, they are immediately spotted as criminals and treated as such — and rightly so .
- The Moral Fallacy supposes that man is too evil (or too “something´´) to govern himself regarding some “public goods´´ that must thus be confided to the government — but the government itself is made of men who are not less evil (or less “something´´) than the rest of mankind. Government is not determined by an external superior force, but by men among others. Actually, its coercive power is of a corrupting nature that will make government officials evil rather than good, both by changing those who embrace it and by selecting those who seek it .
- The Altruist Fallacy is a particular misconception often used together with the Moral Fallacy, to justify the necessity of government: it affirms that people are naturally egoistic, and that there needs be an external force to make them behave in altruistic ways in spite of themselves, so that they may survive. This fallacy once again supposes that government is moved by an external force outside of the public, whereby statesmen and their henchmen would be more altruistic and less egoistic than the citizens. But it also supposes that altruism is in opposition with egoism — which is false. And which is so obviously false, that it is by appeal to people’s egoist interest that the self-proclaimed altruists try to convince people to follow them in their statist schemes .
- The “Long Term Interest´´ Fallacy combines the Moral Fallacy with the Catastrophe-Prevention Fallacy: it supposes that only government can take into account the long-term interests of people. Now, only people with property rights truly secured on the long term can and will commit to coherent long-term investments. However, governments are never secure in their remaining in power, unless they may use extreme oppression, which both makes obvious their lack of benevolence and spends the resources necessary for long-term investment .
- The Uniformity Fallacy assumes that uniformity in some matters is good in itself, and is a “public good´´ such that common government regulations over as large a territory as possible is the only or best way to achieve the desired uniformity in these matters. However, uniformity is not always good in itself; coercion by governments is neither the only way nor the best way to enforce standards; moreover the domains that standards will optimally regulate are seldom either large or territorial; and most importantly, a system of coercion hampers the very discovery of which better standards should be commonly adopted and enforced, because it destroys the points of comparison, neglects most opinions save that of the authority and its lobbyists, and prevents dynamic adjustment to varying and evolving individual circumstances .
|3 Explaining Irrationality Rationally|
It is one thing to know that statist arguments are logical fallacies, but it is quite another thing to understand why and how these fallacies arise. What are the mechanisms of thought that lead to developing this kind of beliefs and this kind of justifications? How come so many people take it for granted that government can magically solve any and all problems that they fear or encounter?
A common way to answer these questions is to analyze the popularity of these fallacious opinions in terms of the interests of the people who spread them and who accept them . From this perspective, these people will better prosper who spread or accept opinions from the respective popularity or displayed acceptance of which they derive higher marginal benefits and lower marginal costs . This point of view has been successfully used to develop Public Choice Theory, that explains the underlying mechanisms of political decision in democracies. It is a very important tool to understand the strength of the forces that underlie political oppression and plunder throughout the world.
These forces are such that any time there is a potential for exploitation, someone will come and use this potential to his profit. And the potential in this case is the acceptance by people of their being exploited : any time people have beliefs that make them willing to be exploited, then political entrepreneurs will rush to turn this opportunity into actual exploitation. Note that this is another reason why government subsidies are never useful and can always be counted as almost pure consumption: because any promise of potential exploitation generates lobbying toward collecting (and keeping) the subsidies, up to the amount when the marginal gain (subsidy minus lobbying cost) equals the marginal return on investment in other industries . People specializing in “political entrepreneurship´´ will discover or create new untapped resources that they will exploit, all the while preserving and intensifying the existing exploitation .
The conclusion of this analysis is that the battle for freedom is not a battle between people, it is a battle between ideas. In as much as the ideas that currently allow for exploitation to exist are in widespread acceptance, the actual potential for oppression remains just as strong, and fighting current oppressors and abolishing current forms of oppression will only lead to different oppressors taking control and instituting new forms of oppression. It is the voluntary servitude, as La Boétie called it, the acceptance of power, that must be fought.
Now, as far as suggesting ways to fight fallacies, this approach does not offer very encouraging answers; it certainly gives general recipes for how to lobby or not to lobby, but such advice is worthy whether you’re lobbying for or against liberty, and it seems that the enemies of liberty already have a headlong advance at levying such techniques . If we are to go further and actually fight these fallacies, if we are to choose actions that will better the statist propaganda, then we have to take an approach that is qualitative rather than merely quantitative. Why are these fallacies surviving, rather than other fallacies? If these fallacies were successfully dispelled, would exploitation be vanquished, or would the interests at stake just spawn different fallacies to replace them, with exploitation remaining just as intensive? Is there something in these fallacies that can be traced as the Evil to be struck, rather than the superficial shapes that it can replace at will when they are defeated? To find out, we must analyze the common patterns of thought behind the fallacies used to justify government.
A first obvious common point in all the justifications for government: they all suppose that government somehow provides some kind of goods for free, without any costly counterpart. The existence of this pattern among statists is not anything new; we libertarians even have a mantra to dispel this pattern: TANSTAAFL . However, what is remarkable is that all statist justifications include this pattern, albeit sometimes in a less than obvious way. The pattern is most visible in the trivial cases, where the goods to be provided for free are the subsidies that are not compared to the corresponding taxes. In more subtle cases, the pattern is hidden behind the increased complexity of the situation, but it’s still there: for instance, government is supposed to bring the coordination of people toward some common good for free. Ultimately, what government is supposed to bring is some kind of a warranty that evil won’t happen; some special sense of security. But in all cases, government is supposed to conjure something out of thin air : The only thing supposedly required for government to grant us its blessings is to demand them by petitioning it with enough faith.
A second pattern that can be found to accompany the first pattern is that government is seen as an external entity, something outside of society and above it. And this divine nature is precisely what allows it to create and dispense goods, services, trust or whatever, at no cost. This divine nature can be put clearly in evidence through the awe of people before the visible power of the State: “how could mere individuals accomplish that?´´ will they wonder, when it is suggested that a government monopoly on this or that activity should be abolished. Yet, government monopoly or no government monopoly, it is always “mere´´ individuals doing things! Of course it is, and it cannot be otherwise. Politicians and government officers are not more than other individuals; actually, experience as well as theory shows that they are usually less than other individuals — because they are irresponsible. Government doesn’t sprinkle any pixie dust on its masters and servants, it doesn’t endow them with any magic power. Actually, Government does grant them a special ability that normal individuals don’t have — and this ability is indeed what characterizes Government: it is the ability to recourse to legal coercion against those who refuse to obey. The God that statists worship is Brute Force. So, translated in real terms, without the veil of magic, the question that those awed people wonder about really is: “how could this be achieved without coercion?´´ And the answer is then obviously “with less suffering´´ .
As we progress toward the dark secret behind statism, we find a third common pattern among justifications for government: they all introduce a false tradeoff between liberty and some good, where government is supposed to be the divine entity with which trade happens. Divine, because it is clear to everyone, including the statists, that no human force could propose such a deal . But statists either ignore human behavior, or classify the State out of it — to them, Government is a God, a superior collectivist entity with which to trade. (Where’s my invoice ?) The way they evade the crucial question: “Who warranties the warrant ?´´ is by pushing it back behind a veil of ignorance and blind faith. Once again, some supernatural force is meant to create trust out of nowhere, for free. Magic mantras, sacred texts with magic power, such as constitutions , the complex rituals and formal apparatus of the State and its administration, all contribute to lure people into attributing a divine aura to the State.
Finally, a common point between all of these fallacies is that all their arguments contain dynamically self-destructing notions. That is, they imply the dynamic opposite of the axioms used to justify them. They rely on premises the effects of which lead to the quick disappearance of the premises. This particular kind of contradiction shows that underlying these fallacies is a way of thinking that ignores the dynamics of human action through causation and focuses on static assessments about society using correlations. Such dynamic contradictions are based on some kind of static reasoning that ignores the very basics of dynamic human behavior — that ignores the very nature of man. This makes it paradoxical that statists often accuse libertarians of being utopian and unrealistic and ignorant of human nature, whereas it is precisely the statists who deserve such comments! But this kind of paradox is frequent with statists.
All in all, the justifications for statism are not a collection of isolated mistakes; they stem from a systematic line of flawed reasoning, from a strong paradigm, from a view of the world.
From our study of them, it appears that all the justifications of the State ultimately boil down to this: religious worship of the State as an almighty supernatural authority. The State is the idol of a self-denying pagan cult. Belief in such nonsense would be considered a mental disease, if it were not so common. And hopefully, in a not so far away future, it will indeed be considered as a mental pandemic, an infantile disease that swept away the world at a time when mankind is still very young. However, for the time being, it is still up to us to devise a cure — and to be able to do so, we must first understand the disease, how it survives, how it propagates. We must investigate the psychological mechanisms underlying such a belief system, identify the weaknesses of the mind through which this parasite belief enters people’s mind.
Governments are assuming undue authority. Thus, in as much as the structure of human feelings is a common genetic heritage, any strong and coherent tendency in a lot of people to believe in government has an explanation in terms of the usurpation of some natural sentiment of submission to authority. Natural sources of authority are not many: parents have some authority on their children, in as much as they provide for them; friends give their opinions to be taken into account in as much as their alliance is to be preserved; chiefs lead people in short times of emergency (war, fire, natural disaster, etc.); elders or great achievers have authority on laymen, in as much as their wisdom is acknowledged. In evolutionary time scales, these are probably as much complexity as could make way into the innate structure of the human mind .
The first kind of natural authority in human life is parenting. And the fallacies used as justification for government are fallacies of parenting indeed — they ride on the primitive mental mechanisms by which young infants relate to their parents. To a young child, the parents appear as external superior entities that give one goods for free, if only one moans and cries, without one having to think about the ins and outs of the production of the goods thus bestowed. Parents are understood as well-meaning, having with their children a relationship of mutual love; young infants have an absolute trust in their parents . Finally, it is almost universally accepted that parents have an authority to decide for their children, and even to punish them in certain cases — though the precise limits of parental authority are debatable .
There is no doubt that governments pretend to assume the role of parents. In autocracies of all times, the personal tyrant has always posed as Father of the Nation , Big Brother, or something similar . In countries where power is more diluted, no single statesman might dare claim such a pompous title — though it is not uncommon that powerful and lasting politicians be given by journalists both flattering and joking a surname of the same vein ; but even in these countries, government as a whole nonetheless claims the role and powers devolved to parental care: the mythology of government as a parent, or of the Nation as a parent of which government is the spokesman is still very present in the public discourse about government. This is revealed by the ease with which are generated and accepted such common symbols as Uncle Sam or the motherly personification of various nations. And it is not uncommon, when discussing with statists, that they will explicitly appeal to the notion that government fulfills the role of parent with respect to citizens, who are maintained within the role of irresponsible children.
Now, the statist disease doesn’t just substitute government for parents: it attempts to confer government authority from all possible sources. Democracy, the concept of Nation, and the notion of “Social Contract´´, are tricks for the State to assume the authority of a voluntary alliance of friends, although there lacks the basic premise that would give validity and a friendly nature to such an alliance, namely its voluntary nature, — in other words, the liberty to enter it or refrain from entering it, and even exit it. Governments assume the role of a chief in times of emergency. They begin by excluding any competition; then they reinforce their power by creating a permanent climate of emergency. The failings of governments are thus instrumental to their self-preservation, by prolonging and extending the emergency that governments are meant to solve. Finally, governments, through the heavy subsidy of whichever alleged “scientists´´, “artists´´ and “experts´´ support their authority, thereby claim the endorsement of human wisdom for their edicts.
Even if all these roles were legitimately assumed, they wouldn’t endow governments with any of the political rights they claim: to enslave citizens and non-citizens part-time, to rob and imprison those who won’t cooperate, to kill and torture those who resist — and most importantly, to make laws. Law-making is the godly power to unilaterally define and redefine the rules that relate governments to people under their dominion, and that relate these people to each other. Parents, friends, wise men, and even chiefs, have none of these prerogatives upon those who voluntarily accept their authorities, not to talk about those who decline their authorities. Through all these tricks of emotional fraud, governments are really trying to impersonate God — the supreme authority .
So as to achieve its emotional and intellectual fraud, the statist meme  does much more than just divert existing emotions from their rightful targets: it severely distorts the way infected people view the world, to begin with. It must bypass the natural defense system of the human mind, its immunity system: reason, the bullshit detector. And it must take constantly renewed measures to keep this defense system disabled as far as it is concerned . Yet at the same time, it cannot simply destroy all human understanding, otherwise infected humans would not survive long enough to be infected and propagate the meme . The successful parasite must selectively destroy understanding; it must condition the application of its fallacious content so it doesn’t prevent basic surviving skills; it must leave enough of the mind alive and well so as to nurture and transmit the illness .
This circumvention and selective destruction of the immunity system is the essence of the statist disease, as of all diseases. It is the fundamental point about the statist disease, the source that enables all errors. It is the flaw through which the disease can invade the whole of a human’s understanding of society and the universe. It is the cause that fatally leads to terrible consequences. It is the cornerstone to all intellectual and emotional frauds; it is the key that justifies all massive criminal behavior. Only by identifying this flaw can we build new defenses and find a cure. Therefore, we must study more deeply the immunity-altering mechanism of this mental disease; we must fully analyze the ur-Evil of this statist meme that infects human minds. And to begin with, we must give this Evil its name: Black Magic.
|4 Black Magic vs White Magic|
Like all diseases, Black Magic can be characterized by its symptoms. We find a fine, precise and concise summary of these symptoms in an entry of The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce:
Pray, v.: To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
Black Magic is best evidenced by contrasting it with the opposite attitude of White Magic, that is adopted by sane minds .
Everyone seeks happiness, success or redemption; but we can distinguish two radically opposite path to follow while striving for them. A follower of Black Magic begs for grants, he humiliates himself, submits to superior forces. An observer of White Magic earns rewards, he develops self-pride and mastership of nature (in a non-hierarchical sense). A follower of Black Magic tries to obtain favors from superior forces by making sacrifices, by destroying things or people, by making a show of one’s friendly intents, or even by humiliating himself in groveling submission. An observer of White Magic tries to obtain satisfactions from earthly things and people (in a non-hierarchical relation ), by enhancing himself and his property, by creating goods and services, by doing actual work, by proudly developing his skills. Followers of Black Magic are ignorant of nature and how it works, and they rebel against it when it doesn’t satisfy their whims. Practitioners of White Magic try to understand nature and its mechanisms, they accept it as it is, and use their knowledge of it to achieve satisfactions. To followers of Black Magic, Gods are supernatural beings above us; their nature is Holy and suffers no questioning. To practitioners of White Magic, in as much as things can be explained in terms of Gods, Gods are but aspects of Nature itself. To followers of Black Magic, the ultimate goal is the fulfillment of all wild desires, with impossibility being vanquished in a surreal paradise to be granted to worshippers in some far future or after death. To practitioners of White Magic, the ultimate goal is to achieve appreciated satisfactions before death, with the wisdom to reevaluate one’s desires so as to fit the realm of the possible.
This is what I call Black Magic — the belief and practice of seeking good things as miracles bestowed by a certain kind of jealous and venal Gods: Gods who require you to humiliate yourself before them; Gods who reward sacrifices that prove subservience; Gods who relish the abjection of their believers, and the reduction of unbelievers into subjects; Gods who rejoice from the destruction or debasement of oneself and other people; Gods with unlimited powers and arbitrary whims, that are not bound by any law knowable by reason, but are meant to be influenced by a display of compliant intentions from their humiliated followers. Of course, awful gods who could be corrupted by such an attitude would not deserve being worshipped at all. They are monstruosities against which any self-respecting human being can but revolt. Those that grovel at the feet of such gods are slaves, swine; they are creatures lacking the dignity of their own free will, and they are prompt to forsake their free will indeed.
On the contrary, White Magic is a wholly different set of beliefs, involving a wholly different kind of incorruptible but well-meaning Gods: Gods who require people to improve themselves; Gods who reward the creations that proves one’s mastership with the creations themselves; Gods who relish from the self-esteem of believers, and the raise of unbelievers into partners; Gods who rejoice at their observers’ self-reliance and pride; Gods who have limited power, whose behavior is circumscribed by knowable laws of nature, who are only moved by appropriate engineering by proud observers. These Gods are not to be worshipped, but understood. They are facts of nature that humans must learn to know and accept. Those who master these Gods become better humans; they are moral beings exerting their morality by making choices, and who indeed seek liberty and its dual face, responsibility, as the mother of all virtues.
Black Magic and White Magic are two opposite poles in the universe of attitudes that humans can have toward Life. In actual human behavior, in actual human beliefs, religions and discourses, within the complexity of any single person’s mind, the two opposite attitudes may be simultaneously present, and their many instances interwoven, combined, and blended. The reality of human behavior oscillates between these two extremes, and more often than not yield shades of gray. But this gray doesn’t mean that black and white do not exist: the very notion of shades of gray presupposes that black and white exist, that they can be separated and that you can be closer to one than to the other.
Separating white from black is not easy. Indeed, both aspects are simultaneously present in traditional cultures and religions; the very same words will contain several meanings with radically different colors; and most people will conflate these meanings into a vague confuse concept that prevents them from distinguishing the opposition between those meanings. Thus, confused or deceiving people will often resort to patterns of thoughts that jump from one meaning to the other without most listeners noticing the mistake or fraud. And this permanent confusion is no sheer bad luck: Black Magic systematically develops deceitful appearances: it will impersonate white magic so as to claim its creations, and thus to usurp power and legitimacy. Black magicians, the great destructors who dominate society, will dress in white, and claim to be great creators, whereas they will dress in black the enslaved white magicians who actually create.
Thus, people who believe what they are taught by schools and mass media will often have an inverted idea of what is white magic and what is black magic, of who is being exploited and who is exploiting, of what are the principles of creation, and what are the principles of destruction. The more gullible people will indeed invert black and white on a wide area of issues, wherever the official propaganda is efficient. Less gullible people will be confused into seeing gray everywhere. Of course, people find it usually obvious to distinguish what is constructive and what is destructive when it concerns themselves directly, so that the black magic propaganda can seldom deceive people regarding their immediate self-interest; but it can deceive them regarding their long-term self-interest, and regarding the self-interest of those people they don’t know well. It inverts the long-range moral vision of gullible people, and induces moral myopia in less gullible people. This inversion causes a lot of confusion; it creates for each believer an intermediate area where everything is blurry or self-contradictory, between their correct short-range understanding and their inverted long-range understanding; this in turn induces a feeling of absurdity about life. In the end, this leads to a form of schizophrenia among those who accept theories too far from everyday practice , to self-destruction by those who will not adopt practices opposite to their theories; and to atrophy of the minds of those who seek to avoid mental conflict by rejecting theory altogether.
So as to understand the world, we must learn thus to untangle the tree of white magic from the parasite lianes of black magic that surround it. So as to assess the effects of various attitudes and deeds, we must examine the respective influences of Black Magic and White Magic in human behavior. Black magic always wins in appearance; you will always see it dominate the established institutions, glorified by formal rites and astonishing shows. But it is white magic that actually makes the world go round, even if it requires discernment to see that. Black magicians are expert in wishful thinking, idle imprecation, and deception of themselves and other people; but only through the dedicated work of white magicians does the world actually progress. All creation stems from the principles of white magic. White magic serves as the basis for civilization itself. And Black Magic itself can survive but as a parasite to White Magic, — for if there is no creation, there soon remains nothing left to destroy.
Murray Rothbard, in the conclusion of his book Power and Market, made a small comparative table between the consequences of what he called “The Market Principle´´ and “The Hegemonic Principle´´. We may very well extend his table to summarize the opposition between the broader underlying principles that are White Magic and Black Magic. Actually, considering this table, we may equally name these principles respectively the Libertarian Principle and the Authoritarian Principle, or else the (classical) liberal principle and the statist principle, the merchant principle and the warrior principle, the principle of economics and the principle of politics, the voluntaryist principle and the coercitive principle, etc.
|Some Consequences of|
|The Market Principle||The Hegemonic Principle|
|general mutual benefit (maximized social utility)||exploitation — benefit of one group at expense of another|
|mutual harmony||caste conflict: war of all against all|
|power of man over nature||power of man over man|
|most efficient satisfaction of consumer wants||disruption of want-satisfaction for citizens, made secondary to the whims of political masters|
|economic calculation||calculational chaos|
|incentives for production and advance in living standards||destruction of incentives: capital consumption and regression in living standards|
|White Magic||Black Magic|
|Praxeology — rational thinking on dynamic choices||Magic Thinking — wishful thinking on static parameters|
|Science as a process of free inquiry||Superstition under the authority of official dogmas|
|Simple universal rules||Complex ad hoc statements|
|Internal consistency — reason as an unescapable filter for beliefs||Double think — withholding reason to preserve beliefs|
|Understanding Nature||Worshipping ignorance|
|Accepting Facts||Revolt against nature|
|Realizing Actual Potentials||Running after whimsical ghosts|
|Economics is a point of view on all human action||Economics is about monetary payments, to be taxed by the State|
|Those who can actually make useful predictions reap rewards on the market||Those who make useless statistics are paid by the State to justify its plunder|
|Earning one’s life||Being granted one’s life|
|Production: mutual exploitation for mutual benefit||Predation: unilateral exploitation to one’s benefit and the other’s loss|
|Harmonic interests, positive-sum win-win games||Conflicting interests, negative-sum win-lose games|
|Convincing with persuasion||Coercing with force|
|Internal discipline of self-help and exercise||External rituals of helpless begging prayers|
|Rational Arguments||Emotional arguments|
|Right to dissent||Obligation to comply|
|Liberty, Mother of Order||Order, Pretense for Oppression|
|Emerging Order||Imposed Chaos|
|Morality based on good actions, intents behind actions being irrelevant||Morality based on good intentions, any outcome of actions being irrelevant|
|Justice based on respecting and restoring the individual property rights of everyone||Justice based on coercing individuals into the collective utopia|
|Dynamic choices||Static wishes|
White Magic and Black Magic attitudes are pervasive. Indeed, it is by structuring the way people think that they influence the way people act. Like all self-reproducing memes, they spread and survive in as much as the act they entail will in turn contribute to spreading the meme. A major target for the memes is thus the center of language, the mechanisms with which individuals associate meaning to words and relate words to each other and to emotions, the way people understand the world.
George Orwell, in his famous novel 1984, described how totalitarian regimes try to limit the way people can think, express and exchange ideas that may be subversive to their established order, by reshaping the language into what he dubs novlang: the vocabulary is reduced; the terms are redefined to mean only what the party wants; and to have the connotations in line to the party ideology; the subversive words and meanings are eliminated, etc.  When the enemies of liberty do not hold totalitarian power, they cannot manipulate the language at will; however, they can still spread their connotations into words, and add enough secondary meanings to existing words so as to render them useless (or at least much less useful) at conveying opposing ideas, or precise ideas at all. Indeed, Friedrich Hayek has observed how the adjective “social´´, when a prefix to such terms as “justice´´, “contract´´, “responsibility´´, etc., was actually used to have justice, contract, responsibility, etc., mean the opposite to what libertarians would use these words for. Philosophers like Henry Hazlitt or Ayn Rand have also observed how the words “egoism´´ and “altruism´´ were being used by enemies of liberty with grossly incoherent meanings, promoting them as incompatible and opposite to one another, with egoism being evil and altruism being good, thus justifying the sacrifice of individuals to the collectivity, as incarnate in its government .
We may pinpoint a case where Black Magicians have strongly biased a word in our preceding comparative table: the word “exploitation´´. Exploitation means fulfilling some potential of usefulness; bringing the good out of something or someone. So mutual exploitation is something quite good, that allows everyone to be better off, with a net result of creation of wealth for everyone — mutual exploitation is the root of everything good in society . But the black magicians have loaded the word “exploitation´´ to specifically means unilateral exploitation of one to the benefit of the other, with a net result of destruction of wealth. Once again, they want everyone to implicitly admit that society is not based upon relationships of production, but only upon relationships of predation. Black magicians think in terms of predation; then they reproach exploitation as evil when other people do it, and they claim it as good when they do it (though they won’t utter the unholy word “exploitation´´ in this case). Actually, since a society based exclusively on predation is impossible, in the end, Black Magic will be based on a fraud wherein most followers of Black Magic will themselves be enslaved producers, victims of predation, but who are completely delusioned about what is production and what is predation. The belief in Black Magic will thus be a parasite infesting people who actually live thanks to the creative rules of White Magic; it may allow few real Black Magicians to live at the expense of these people; but it may even survive without benefitting much anyone.
Sometimes, White Magic wins in the battle over vocabulary. My favorite witness is the word “to earn´´, — a typically English and American word, that has no real equivalent in French. It implies a dynamic relationship between a result and the means to achieve it: through hard work, you get something valuable that you deserve. A whole morality of creation, productivity, honesty, individual property, personal responsibility, and liberty lies behind this word. Yet, even as I try to describe the meaning of this libertarian word, I have to use words that can cause confusion, and that the authoritarians will happily hijack: hard work, productivity. Black Magicians, who are unaware of causation relationships, will disconnect work from its result, and will either blame all work as bad in itself , or otherwise praise the virtues of work as good in itself . White Magicians value “hard work´´, not in proportion to the intensity of the efforts, but in proportion to the intensity in results . It is understood as a law of nature that easy gains will be quickly reaped and considered as acquired without particular care (any required care means the gain is not so easy). Thus, any fruitful work that predictably yields a valuable result will probably imply some intense efforts or some rare insight. And it is precisely the propensity to sacrifice obvious immediate pleasures to a remote unobvious result that deserves praise — in as much as the remote result is indeed a net gain. Still, what is praised is the readiness to see and act beyond immediate gains — the ultimately greater good made possible by the immediate sacrifice; it isn’t the immediate evil of the sacrifice itself ! The praise or lack thereof deserved by hard work can be related with the praise or lack thereof deserved by intense reflection: what matters is not the effort spent in thinking per se, it is the result in terms of depth of the thought reached. And even this depth is to be valued only through the improvement in behavior that it allows; in turn, this improvement is to be measured in terms of enhancement in satisfactions in one’s life (including the indirect satisfactions achieved through cooperation with other people who can be more directly satisfied thanks to this understanding). The goal is “less thought, more results´´, and not the other way round ; deep thought is good only if on the overall it enables new strategies of behavior that save the need for future thinking while achieving a same or better result — it’s a capital investment.
Black Magic, the Authoritarian Principle, is a meme that profoundly distorts its victims’ view of the world, as opposed to the correct view that is achieved with White Magic, the Libertarian Principle. If we libertarians want to cure people from the Black Magic meme, we must take the full consequence of the way Black Magic distorts the understanding of its victims. For we can cure them but by convincing them, and while communicating with them, we will have to cross the semantic gap between the words as we understand them, and the same words as these victims understand them — with each victim having his or her own subtly different set of distortions .